Are you leaking personal info? What you need to know about using public charging stations

When you’re out and about, the last thing you want to see is the low-battery alert on your phone. Thank goodness for all those super convenient charging stations at all the places you shop, eat and travel, right? Maybe not. According to recent reports, it might be time to find another, safer option. 

The Los Angeles County District Attorney is warning traveling smartphone users of a new threat to their data security in the form of a charging scam called “juice jacking.” But what exactly is juice jacking? Is it as big of a threat as it seems and what can you do to secure your data? We’re breaking it all down before you start your holiday travels.

What is juice jacking?

Juice jacking is a USB-based charging scam in which hackers load malware into charging stations or utilize cables plugged into the same location to infect the device. The malware can lock the device, rendering it unfunctional or it can export sensitive information and passwords directly to the hacker. 

Should I be worried?

Although juice jacking is technically possible, there’s little evidence to support that the issue is as prevalent as the USB-charging stations themselves. Although the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office was one of the first to bring the issue to user attention this year, they’ve had no reports or cases of data being stolen though juice jacking.

USB connections are designed to transfer both power and data, so as iOS and Android operating systems have gotten smarter so have their connections. Security and safety measures have been implemented in many systems in order to prevent juice jacking at the highest level.

What can I do to secure my information?

Although juice jacking isn’t a common occurrence, it’s still possible to turn any electrical power source into a data drain. Thankfully, there are a few precautions you can take if you’re frequently on the move and worried about securing your sensitive information:

  • Plug in at a standard electrical outlet instead of a dedicated charging station
  • Utilize portable chargers or personal laptops as power sources in case of emergencies
  • Be sure your smartphone is always updated with the latest operating software

Juice jacking may not be the next big user privacy threat, but it’s never a bad idea to take extra steps to ensure your data stays private and your passwords and other sensitive info stays in the right hands. 

For more ways to keep your user data safe from malicious threats, check us out on Facebook or Twitter for expert tips on internet, wireless and smart home security.